WPIAL champ Isabel Huang of Quaker Valley picking up where she left off last season

Sunday, January 31, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Quaker Valley junior swimmer Isabel Huang stepped to the top spot of the podium at the WPIAL championship twice last season, winning gold in the 200-yard IM and 100 backstroke. She is picking up where she left off.

During Quaker Valley’s meet against Moon on Jan. 26, Huang put together two of her best times this season in both events.

“Considering all the mishaps and disruptions we’ve had this year with corona and everything, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place for myself, goal wise, with my times and with my team,” Huang said.

Quaker Valley coach John Nemeth said Huang clocked a 2 minutes, 7 seconds in the 200 IM, which bested her previous time of 2:11.07 set Jan. 14 against Riverside. Her previous time was also the fastest time in WPIAL Class AA, according to the results updated on the WPIAL’s website each week.

Huang also topped her season-best in the 100 backstroke by almost 2 seconds against Moon, when she clocked a 57.4, which also is a WPIAL best.

“She’s kind of right on with where she needs to be, and we are really happy with how well she swam (Jan. 26) because she dropped a ton of time compared to the first couple of meets and everything,” Nemeth said.

The two-event WPIAL champion hasn’t just been excelling in her regular events. She also has been showing off her versatility in other individual events. So far this season, Huang has clocked top-four times in five other events, including one she hasn’t swam since her freshman season.

She clocked a 1:00.24 in the 100 butterfly against Carlynton on Jan. 11, which is the third-best time in the WPIAL. She also produced top-four times in the 50, 100, 200, and 500 freestyle.

On Jan. 21, Huang recorded a 5:25.36 in the 500 freestyle against Blackhawk, which is the third-best time in the WPIAL and 9 seconds faster than the fourth-best time. When she was a freshman, Huang said she swam the entire event backstroke instead of freestyle.

When she swam it freestyle, for basically the first time in her varsity career, she said it was fun. She was a little surprised by her time.

“I had no idea what I was going to go, so it was definitely a surprise,” Huang said. “It was honestly a little faster than I would’ve totally thought I would’ve gone, so I was happy with it.”

Nemeth has mixed it up with his top swimmer, entering her in multiple events, which has allowed the team to have success and displayed Huang’s ability to lead by example.

“She absolutely is a leader, but more than anything, she leads by example and her ability to step up and race and everything,” Nemeth said. “She’s such a great racer, and she performs well under pressure and that just kind of rubs off on everyone around her. Whether it’s on a relay, she just sets the right tone.”

Huang already has come close to her WPIAL championship times from last winter. She is less than a half-second away from matching her 100-yard backstroke time and just over a second away from beating her 200 IM time.

Given the amount of time she has left before the WPIAL championship in March, Huang feels like there’s still room to improve in her two main events.

“It’s just small details in those two events and mostly just focusing on those two events now since we’re about a month out from WPIALs,” Huang said. “It’s just things like underwaters and staying in the middle of the lane because I tend to move towards the lane line. But it’s mostly just the small details that can help me improve my time without having to exert more effort during the events.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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